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Infected PCs spew malware over 3G connections

Backhaul badness

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3GSM Much has been written about malware capable of infecting mobile phones, but infected PCs spewing regular malware over 3G connections might be a more serious problem.

More firms are using 3G networks for internet backhaul. Corporate machines connecting to these expensive networks often turn out to be infected, according to Michael Coward, chief technology officer of telecoms infrastructure firm Continuous Computing.

To prevent PC malware spreading from laptop to laptop across 3G networks, Continuous Computing markets infrastructure technology that allows operators to rapidly deploy next generation networks, which (among other functions) scans mobile traffic for viral code and other crud.

As well as PC malware, SMS spam increasingly crops up as a problem. Coward explained that mobile junk messages are a country specific problem with the Philippines, for example, acting as a particular centre of abuse.

Prompted by a McAfee survey that suggested operators were struggling with mobile malware, we asked readers who'd experienced a mobile malware attack to get in touch. No one whose handset had been infected by a mobile virus got in touch. However, a representative from an integrator that sells mobile malware screening tech was able to shed some light on the scope of the problem.

AdaptiveMobile markets a service that allows an operator to implement adult content, spam, and virus filtering for MMS. The network traffic scanning service uses anti-virus signatures from McAfee, Symantec, and others.

Simeon Coney of AdaptiveMobile explained that the service allowed it to get a measure of how widespread the malware problem is in an operator's network, plus the impact on the end user. "We typically clean over 50,000 infected mobile messages a day for a mid-sized national operator," Coney explained.

That sounds like a lot of traffic, but bearing in mind mobiles infected by pests like CommWarrior can be expected to spew out thousands of messages, it would be wrong to equate this to a large population of infected mobile devices. Infected PCs spewing crap over 3G networks is, we suspect, a greater problem for no other reason than that targeted devices (ie other Windows PCs) are easier to infect.

Continuous Computing didn't have its hand on figures quantifying the problem of PC malware on 3G backhaul connections when we met at the 3GSM show earlier this week, but promised to check to see if it had any data on the issue available. ®

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